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rather than resenting it, they had thus, by one bold push and but small effort besides, utterly checked the King. His army disorganised and deserting, he summoned a Great Council of Peers to meet at York, September 24, and help him in his negotiation with the Scots ; but, some of the leading Peers themselves petitioning for a Parliament, and petitions to the same effect arriving from the city of London, he was obliged to yield. A preliminary treaty with the Scots, agreed upon by commissioners of the two nations, was signed by him at York, October 27; and thence he hastened to London, to open the new Parliament. It was to be known as the Long Parliament, the most famous Parliament in the annals of England. It met November 3, 1640.
ALDERSGATE STREET, LONDON.
1640—45: ætat. 32—37. The lodgings in St. Bride's Churchyard, Fleet Street, were but a temporary arrangement. “ Looking round,” says Milton, “ where best I could, in the midst of affairs so disturbed and fluctuating, for a place to settle in, I hired a house in the city sufficiently large for myself and my books." His nephew Edward Phillips, who soon went to be a fellowboarder in the new house with his younger brother John, describes it more particularly as “a pretty garden-house in Aldersgate Street, at the end of an entry, and therefore the fitter for his turn by reason of the privacy, besides that there are few streets in London more free from noise than that." Aldersgate Street is very different now, and not a vestige of Milton's house remains. It stood at the back of that part of the street, on the right hand as you go from St. Martin'sle-Grand, where there is now Maidenhead Court.
The Aldersgate Street house, which Milton entered some time in 1640, probably before the meeting of the Long Parliament, was to be a very memorable one in his biography. “ There, in tolerable comfort,” he says, “I betook myself to my interrupted studies, trusting the issue of public affairs to God in the first place, and to those to whom the people had committed that charge.” In other words, his hope was that now at last he might begin in real earnest that life of sustained literary exertion in his own English speech, aftei a higher and nobler fashion than England had heretofore known,
to which he had secretly pledged himself. Especially, during his Italian journey, he had been revolving the project of some one great English poem, to be begun on his return, and to be his occupation through as many years as might be necessary. As we learn from his poem to Manso, and still more distinctly from his Epitaphium Damonis, an epic on the subject of Arthur, involving the whole cycle of Arthurian or ancient British Legends, was the scheme that had principally fascinated him. Within the first year after his return, however, the Arthurian subject had been set aside, and Milton's mind, weighing and balancing the comparative advantages of the epic form and the stately tragedy of the Greeks with its lyrics and choruses, was at sea among a great number of possible subjects, suitable for either, collected from Biblical History and the History of Britain before the Conquest. See the Introduction to Paradise Lost, Section II. Paradise Lost, in the form of a tragedy, was already the favourite subject; but all was uncertain. To end this uncertainty, by actually choosing a subject and setting to work, was the business which Milton, while daily teaching his young nephews, and showing them “ an example of hard study and spare diet,” had prescribed for himself in Aldersgate Street.
Alas! it had to be postponed, and for a longer series of years than could have been anticipated. Milton, at this juncture of his life, was whirled into politics; and for nearly twenty years (1640-1660), with but moments of exception, he had to cease to be “ a poet soaring in the high region of his fancies with his garland and singing-robes about him," and to “ sit below in the cool element of prose.” It was not only Milton's life, indeed, that was so affected by the great Puritan Revolution. The lives of almost all his English literary contemporaries were similarly affected, and through the twenty years between 1640 and 1660 there was a marked eclipse of Pure Literature in England in consequence of the drafting of the literary intellect of the country into the service of the current controversies. In no life, however, is the phenomenon more visible than in Milton's ; and there are some to whom its exhibition in that life in particular is matter for regret. They judge poorly and wrongly. It may be admitted that in controversial prose, though such prose with Milton was to be far from a “cool element,” he had, as he himself expresses it, “the use but of his left hand.” To lend even that hand, however, with all its force, to what he deemed the cause of God, Truth, Liberty, and his Country, seemed, to himself at least, a more important duty, so long as there should be need, than scheming and writing poems.
It was on the Church question that Milton first spoke out. The Long Parliament had, with singular rapidity, in the first months of its sitting, swept away accumulated abuses in State and Law, brought Strafford to trial and execution, impeached and imprisoned Laud and others of the chief ministers of Thorough, subjected Charles to constitutional checks, made a satisfactory treaty with the Scots, and sent them home with thanks for their great services to England. They had also taken measures for their own security and the permanence of English Parliamentary government. All this having been done unanimously or nearly so, the Church question had at length emerged as the most difficult of all, and that on which there was most difference of opinion. That the Laudian Episcopacy must no longer exist in England all, with hardly an exception, were agreed ; but, for the rest, people divided themselves into two parties. There were the advocates of a Limited Episcopacy, excluding the Bishops perhaps from the House of Lords and from other places of political and judicial power, and also surrounding them even in Church matters with Councils of Presbyters ; and there were the Root-and-Branch Reformers, who were for abolishing Episcopacy utterly, and reconstructing the Church of England after some Presbyterian model like that of the Scots. Into this controversy Milton, in May 1641, flung his first pamphlet, entitled “ Of Reformation touching Church Discipline in England, and the Causes that have hitherto hindered it.” It was a Root-and-Branch pamphlet of most tremendous earnestness, and was followed within a year by four more of the same sort: viz. “ Of Prelatical Episcopacy” (June 1641), “ Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence against Smectymnuus” (July 1641), “ The Reason of Church government urged against Prelaty” (about Feb. 1641-2), “ Apology against a Pamphlet called A modest Confutation of the Animadversions upon the Remonstrant against Smectymnuus” (March 1641-2). These five pamphlets of Milton are to be remembered in a group by themselves, and may be called his “Anti-Episcopal Pamphlets." The first of them is general ;
in the others there are replies to defenders of Episcopacy, and especially to Bishop Hall and Archbishop Usher. The “Remonstrant” is Bishop Hall, whose Humble Remonstrance was regarded as the chief manifesto of High Prelacy ; • Smectymnuus” was the fancy name put on the title-page of a large reply to Hall by five leading Puritan Divines, whose initials put together made up the odd word (one being Thomas Young, Milton's old tutor, now Vicar of Stowmarket in Suffolk); and there were other pamphlets, of retort and rejoinder, between Hall and the Smectymnuans, in all of which Milton advised and assisted the five Smectymnuans. Altogether, by the power of his Anti-Episcopal pamphlets, and especially by his vehement invectives against Hall, Milton became a man of public note, admired by the Root-andBranch Puritans, but detested by those who wanted to see Episcopacy preserved.
In August 1642, Charles having in the meantime assented to a Bill excluding the Bishops from the House of Lords, but having broken decisively with the Parliament on other questions, there began the great Civil WAR. From that date Englishmen were divided into two opposed masses, the PARLIAMENTARIANS, taking the side of that majority of the Commons and small minority of the Lords which still sat on as the two Houses; and the ROYALISTS, taking the side of the King and of the bulk of the nobility, with the adhering minority of the Commons. Milton, of course, attached himself resolutely to the Parliamentarians. He did not, indeed, serve in the Parliamentary Army; but he watched the progress of the contest with the most eager interest. For the first year all was dubious. The Parliamentary generals, Essex, Manchester, and Sir William Waller, moved about; the King and his generals moved about, advancing at one time close to London ; there were skirmishes, fights, even battles ; but, when Midsummer 1643 had come, all that could be said was that London and the Eastern Counties were the fastnesses of Parliament, while the King had his head-quarters at Oxford, and the rest of England lay torn into districts, some Royalist, others Parliamentarian, and others of Royalists and Parliamentarians all but equally mixed.
That Milton should have chosen such a time for his marriage is less surprising than that he should have brought his bride from the very head-quarters of Royalism. That, however, is the fact. “ About Whitsuntide [May 21, 1643] it was, or a little after," says his nephew Phillips, “ that he took a journey into the country, nobody about him certainly knowing the reason, or that it was any more than a journey of recreation ; but home he returns a married man that went out a bachelor, his wife being Mary, the eldest daughter of Mr. Richard Powell, then a Justice of the Peace, of Foresthill, near Shotover, in Oxfordshire.” What was a mystery to the boy Phillips at the time is very much a mystery yet ; but research has revealed a few particulars. Forest-hill is, and was, a village about four miles to the east of Oxford, in the very neighbourhood where Milton's paternal ancestors had lived, and whence his father had come. The estate and mansion of Forest-hill had been for some little time in the possession of a family called Powell, not originally of that neighbourhood. The family, though apparently well-to-do, with a carriage and what not, was really in somewhat embarrassed circumstances. There were several mortgages on the property ; and among other debts owing by Mr. Powell was one of £ 500 to Milton himself. It had been owing (on what account one does not know, but probably through some transaction with Milton's father) since 1627, when Milton was a student at Cambridge. The family, as their vicinity to Oxford required, were strongly Royalist. Besides Mr. Powell and his wife, there were eleven children, six sons and five daughters, the eldest one-and-twenty years of age, the youngest four. Mary Powell, the eldest daughter, whom Milton took home to Aldersgate Street as his wife, was seventeen years and four months old (born January 24, 1625-6), while Milton himself was in the middle of his thirty-fifth year, or exactly twice as old. In the house in Aldersgate Street, whither some of the bride's relatives accompanied her, “ there was feasting held for some days in celebration of the nuptials.” So we are told by Phillips, who was in the house at the time, a boy of thirteen. “At length,” he continues, “they [the bride's relatives] took their leave, and, returning to Foresthill, left the sister behind, probably not much to her satisfaction, as appeared by the sequel. By that time she had for a month or thereabout led a philosophical life (after having been used to a great house and much company and jollity), her friends, possibly incited by her own desire, made earnest suit by letter to have her company the remaining part of the